Charlotte image

Fay Sampson’s Family History

This site is a work-in-progress. There is a massive amount to cover. I have included both male and female lines, and some go back 30 generations. Keep coming back for more.
I have numbered the generations working backwards from my own as (1)

Sampson  Tree


 RANULPH DE WOOLAVINGTON. In the late 14th century, William Ayshford, lord of the manor of Ayshford in East Devon, married the heiress Joan Wollavington. This did much to restore the ailing finances of the Ayshford family.

We can trace Joan’s ancestors in Somerset back to the 1100s, a century after the Norman Conquest, and then in Nottinghamshire back to the Conquest itself.

For that, we need to consider the surname the de Woolavington family had before they moved to Somerset. They are sometimes given the alternative name of le Waleis, or Welles. Information about Ranulph’s origins is given The History of the Welles Family in England: [1]

Randulphus de Welles, of Woolavington, Somersetshire, son of Lord Richardus de Welles, of Welbec Manor in Nottinghamshire, was born about year 1135.”

Welbeck Manor, where Ranulph was born, is between Nottingham and Worksop.

Ranulph was the second of four sons of Richard de Welles.

He was born just before the civil war in which Henry I’s daughter, the Empress Matilda, vied for the throne with his nephew Stephen de Blois. It lasted from 1138 to 1153, by which time Ranulph was eighteen. His father may have fought in this war. Nottingham was held by Stephen, but came under attack by Matilda’s forces and was captured in 1141. But Stephen eventually triumphed and took the crown.


When Ranulph’s father Richard de Welles died, Ranulph’s elder brother Thomas inherited the family estates in Nottinghamshire.

Their uncle Thomas had founded the abbey of Welbeck in 1140, on landed granted by Ranulph’s grandfather and ratified by his father. It was completed in 1180 and the younger Thomas renewed its founding charter. This was confirmed by his brothers, including Ranulph.

“Thomas, son of Richard, sends greetings to Roger, Archbishop of York. Know ye that I have given and confirmed unto Lord Berengarius (first of the Counts of Barcelona, of that name), Abbot of Welbec and all successors of his and brothers in the church of this locality, those of the Order of Premonstratem Canons, serving God, under Serlo, Abbot of Newhouse, in Lincolnshire, to hold in freedom and in quiet, perpetually, the Abbey of Welbec, where the church of St Jacob stands, and all of Belgh between the river and the chariot or coach road that leads from the Abbey to Belgh, including Belgh itself, and whatever territories are between this place, in meadow, in pasture, in Belgh; that is to say, where live son Galfridus, and son Hugo, and Druengis, and all the remaining part which I inherited there, formerly belonging to me, – the Church of St Mary, of Cukeney, in which parish is located the aforesaid Abbey and the Church of St Helen, at Welle, and Church of Whitney, founded in fee by me, and all thereunto belonging, the Mills of Langthwait, and all the territory of Hurst.

“All of which my wife, Emma, and Radulphus, Salvini, and Richard, brothers of mine, give or bequest.”[2]

Albert Welles, in his history of the Welles family, calls Jocelyn’s descendants the Ecclesiastical branch of the family, because of their frequent association with abbeys and bishoprics. Ranulph’s younger brother Salvini became Bishop of Bath and Glastonbury in Somerset.


As a younger son, Ranulph had to make his home beyond the Nottinghamshire family lands in Welbeck and Cukeney. He too moved to Somerset. His great-grandfather Jocelyn the Fleming had been given estates there, taken from their English owners at the Norman Conquest. Ranulph settled in the village of Woolavington, on the northern slopes of the Polden Hills, which bisect the Somerset Levels.

We learn from The History of the Welles Family in England that: “His son was William de Walleys (or Welles) born about 1160.”

The Victoria County History for Somerset tells us:[3]

“In the later 12th century Maud de Chandos gave William son of Ranulph de Woolavington the land which his father had held in Woolavington.”

From now on, the family surname became de Woolavington.

Woolavington lies 12 m west of Glastonbury. The Tor can be clearly seen from the village.

In prehistoric times the sea came all the way from the Bristol Channel to Glastonbury Tor, forming a large inland lake bisected by the Polden Hills on whose slopes Woolavington stands. But by Ranulph’s time, measures were already being taken to drain the levels for farming. Glastonbury Abbey, which was the Woolavingtons’ overlord, played a major part in this.

Somerset Levels and Glastonbury Tor[4]

The church of St Mary in Woolavington was founded around 1154, probably in Ranulph’s youth, but not by the Woolavington family.  There were three manors in Woolavington. The lords of the leading one were the Chandos family, who granted land to Ranulph’s son and founded the church. The Woolavingtons were lords of the manor of Woolavington and Cossington.

We have no information about Ranulph’s wife, or any other children they may have had.



[1] Welles, Albert, History of the Welles family in England. Boston, 1874.
[2] Dugdale, William, Monasticon Anglicanum: the History of the Ancient Abbies and other monasteries.17th century.
[3] Woolavington in A History of the County of Somerset: Volume 8, the Poldens and the Levels, ed. Robert Dunning (London, 2004), British History Online http://www.british-history.ac.uk/vch/som/vol8/pp210-223
[4] Youtube. https://i.ytimg.com/vi/L-xeMOx86UU/maxresdefault.jpg




Sampson Tree